Langley breast cancer dragon boat team still battling in offseason

October is breast cancer awareness month

It’s the offseason for dragon boat racing, but for the Langley team of 25 women fighting breast cancer their battle never ends.

The local dragon boat team is spending Breast Cancer Awareness Month doing community outreach.

“[A] common misconception was that women who have breast cancer shouldn’t do upper body exercise,” said Michelle Righetti, 51.

She’s team captain for Fort Langley’s Abreast in a Boat, joining the team about five years ago.

Abreast in a Boat is a charitable organization that raises awareness about how women can live full, active and healthy lives after a breast cancer diagnosis.

Team membership has one qualification – a breast cancer diagnosis.

“Everyone in the boat has had breast cancer so everybody knows what it’s like, and everyone’s got different stories,” she said. “We don’t really dwell on the cancer too much, but we know that we’ve got that support there if there’s anything going on.”

READ MORE: ‘It’s never too early’: B.C. women urged to speak to their doctors about breast cancer

Righetti learned she had cancer eight years ago.

“I still have cancer,” she said. “I still have it in my bones, and there are probably four people on our boat that have had recurrences.”

It was Righetti’s doctor who noticed her collarbone was swollen and sent her for further testing, which revealed she had stage four cancer.

The next step was to learn where the disease originated – breast cancer.

Righetti was 43 years old when she received the news that the cancer had spread to her bones and her ovaries.

“I thought my life would be over,”she said. “I wouldn’t get to see my kids graduate.”

She immediately began radiation treatment.

“I’m so lucky. For me that worked,” she said.

Still, each month she receives an injection in her bones and everyday she is required to take medication to keep the disease stable.

“Now I’m racing in a boat and going on a ski trip for Christmas,” she said. “It’s not the sort of doom and gloom you think it’s going to be.”

Righetti joined the local dragon boat team after she met a woman at her gym wearing one of the team’s T-shirts.

“When I got cancer, I hadn’t lived here that long from England,” she said. “I thought I don’t know how I’m going to do this, but my Abreast in a Boat girls they take care of everything.”

The women on the team range in age from their 30s to their 50s.

“It doesn’t matter how old you are, how fit you are, how big, how little, whatever it is, as long as you’ve had breast cancer, you’re on the team,” she said.

There’s a variety of roles on the team depending on a member’s fitness level. To race a dragon boat requires 20 paddlers, someone at the back to steer and a drummer at the front.

The public can meet members of the squad this coming weekend. The team will be at the annual Cranberry Festival in Fort Langley on Saturday to do their part for Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

For more information about the organization visit

“You can get past this. You can carry on and live your life as full as you want to,” said Righetti.


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Langley’s Dallas Smith earns fourth Juno award nomination for Country Album of the Year

The artist previously took home the award for his album Lifted in 2015

Langley School District issues letter to parents addressing coronavirus

District has been advised that the risk to the public, including school-age children, is very low

Family fundraises for Langley boy with terminal cancer

The fundraiser is aimed at helping pay family bills

Land purchasing drives debt increase in Langley Township

Council remains divided over the loans as this year’s budget talks continue

A $50 million plan is proposed to prepare for rapid transit in Langley City

Described as a ‘bold move’ to to buy land, improve facilities, and make other improvements

VIDEO: Kenney wants feds to approve Teck mine for benefit of First Nations

‘Surely [reconciliation] means saying yes to economic development for First Nations people’

Despite reports of decline, birds flocking to national parks in Canadian Rockies

Recent studies suggest overall bird population has slid by three billion since 1970

Former UN committee member defends stance on B.C.’s Coastal GasLink pipeline

First Nations LNG Alliance accused UN committee, human rights watchdog of not doing their research

Police release photo of suspect in theft of Indigenous regalia in Vancouver

A person stole nine pieces of Indigenous regalia, five drums, and traditional boots

Opioid crisis to blame for shorter life expectancy in B.C. men, says Stats Can

Opioid crisis held responsible for declining life expectancy

Earthquake on top of highway closure a wake up call for Island’s West Coast

“When someone says, ‘Be prepared for 72 hours,’ that means exactly that: be prepared.”

Newspapers, hockey cards discovered in Mission school’s forgotten time capsule

Capsule opened in front of students from West Heights Community School

Taxi association asks B.C. Supreme Court to stop Uber, Lyft from operating

Petition alleges Passenger Transportation Board did not take taxis into account

Most Read